Saturday, November 01, 2014

Seymour on Employment Relations Bill

David Seymour makes solid anfd interesting speeches (much like Rodney Hide used to and still delivers as weekly columns in the HOS and NBR).

His contribution to the 'teabreak' bill debate uses a novel thought experiment reversing employers and employees. But it is the conclusion I've cut and paste below:

I support this bill because it is a step in the right direction towards more flexible labour markets.
Like all attempts to improve public policy, this amendment is imperfect.
Economic reality and experience suggest it should have gone further. Governments cannot legislate market outcomes, but can influence them.
Let me leave the opposition with two initiatives that might better help New Zealanders achieve better pay and conditions.
Nominal pay rates are only worthwhile to the extent that they are useful for buying real goods. The price of houses have doubled relative to incomes over the last two decades, overwhelmingly due to local authorities prescribing an urban development pattern incompatible with the housing people actually want.
Far more could be achieved for working New Zealanders by improving the responsiveness of housing market supply than by futile attempts to shift bargaining strategies in the labour market.
Another contributor to the outcomes in the labour market is the skill level of employees. Employees with greater skills earn more, and this factor is growing in importance.
Indeed, increases in inequality of market income in the western world can be attributed to increasing returns to skills – you can earn more and more if you are more literate and more numerate.
The real work achieving the opposition’s purported objectives is being done on the supply sides of the housing and education sectors, and I’m proud to support and encourage this government in this work.
In conclusion I am proud to support this bill and hope that this government will one day pursue best practice policy by confronting the fallacies that underlie too much of our labour law legislation.
The duty to enter into and conclude bargaining should be gone.
The duty to retain staff under Section 6A almost unconditionally dependent on the type of employee, and now the type of business, should be gone.
Doing so would put us in touch with the labour market of the 21st century, whose businesses succeed or fail based on their ability to attract and retain workers.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Marriage and wealth

NCPA has a report about marriage and wealth:

If the United States had a married parenthood rate at the same level that it had in 1980, the median income of families with children would increase by 44 percent.

Without doing the numbers it is certain the same effect would be seen in NZ.

Although (referring back to yesterday's post about the shortcomings of measuring poverty relatively), ironically, there would still be a percentage of children living on incomes 60 percent or less of the median income despite being much wealthier. Child poverty would persist!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The ambiguity of measuring 'poverty' relatively

The release of UNICEF's Children of the Recession report has once again triggered a discussion about the shortcomings of measuring poverty relatively.

We all understand how this method can throw up ambiguous outcomes but it's not always easy to explain.

The following is straight from the Household Incomes Report, the official poverty statistics source:

o    when all incomes at and below the median rise, but the median rises more quickly than lower incomes, then poverty is reported as increasing despite low incomes increasing
o    when all incomes at and below the median fall at similar rates, poverty is reported as not changing even though low-income households are in much more difficult circumstances after the reduction in their incomes. 

Clearly, nobody is a winner when a country gets poorer even if fewer people are described as 'in poverty'.

Feed the Kids Bill - say something

From the Green's blog:

Please help me get my Feed the Kids Bill to Select Committee

Last week I took over the Feed the Kids Bill that Hone Harawira had introduced to Parliament. If passed, my Bill will provide government-funded breakfast and lunch in all decile 1 and 2 schools.
Hungry kids can’t learn and are left trapped in the poverty cycle when they grow up. Let’s break that cycle, lunchbox by lunch box. We can feed the country’s hungry kids, if we work together.
My Bill is at a crucial stage of its progress – part way through its First Reading – and may be voted on as early as next Wednesday 5 November.
The way the numbers stack up in the new Parliament the Bill will be voted down unless we can persuade the National Party to change its position and support it going to Select Committee. National have been talking a lot about child poverty since the election, and supporting my Bill is one way they can start to address it.
You can help me persuade the Prime Minister to let the public have a say on this important issue by emailing  John Key, asking that National support my Bill at least to Select Committee. We need to broaden and build the public debate on addressing child poverty, and submissions on this Bill to a Select Committee will help achieve this.
Because of the potentially short timeframe, you’ll need to send your emails as soon as possible and before Monday 3 November at the latest.

As the link was provided I emailed the PM:

 Dear Mr Key

Green co-leader Metiria Turei has asked people to contact you directly to support her Feed the Kids Bill. She provided the link to your address through the Green blog. I have never written to you before.

I sincerely hope you will not support this bill. It would chisel away even more parental responsibility. The less that is expected of parents, the less they will provide or produce. That scenario does not auger well for their children's general welfare.

Even parents reliant on a benefit are paid enough to provide some fruit and modest sandwiches daily. An inability to do so is a symptom of a greater problem requiring scrutiny - for the sake of their child.

The 'income management' regime provides a response to genuinely hungry children. It may interest you that even Labour advocated for extended income management in its election manifesto. Their 2014 ‘Social Development’ policy paper proposed, “…allow[ing] income management to be used as a tool by social agencies where there are known child protection issues and it is considered in the best interests of the child, especially where there are gambling, drug and alcohol issues involved.”


Lindsay Mitchell

Doesn't take long to make a couple of points if you are so inclined.

"I was caught over the limit"

 I was caught over the limit

That's the front page headline on the DomPost cover this morning.

The  event wasn't yesterday, or last year, or even in the last two decades. It was 27 years ago - more than half of the new Police Minister's lifetime.

He disclosed the crime to the National Party in 2008 when applying to be a candidate, and admitted to it when questioned by a DomPost journalist.  He's honest.

But I wonder what is the moral point of the clean slate legislation? Society agreed that some crimes should be wiped after a period of time because they were committed when people were young, they've had a clean record since and the conviction might restrict the individual's ability to get a job or travel.

Obviously the DomPost has a less charitable view.

It also employed a photo that suggests a distressed Minister (whereas the on-line version is the polar opposite).

Tacky, tacky, tabloidism.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Moral hazard

I woke up this morning and a thought popped into my head.

'Child poverty' is the new term for 'moral hazard' :
In economic theory, a moral hazard is a situation in which a party is more likely to take risks because the costs that could result will not be borne by the party taking the risk.
(Had a call from Leighton Smith's producer to ask if I'd have chat with him about child poverty on the back of the UNICEF a report and I couldn't resist dropping my thought in. He laughed.  He doesn't laugh enough. Not on air. His serious demeanour probably masks a sense of humour. Mine does.)

Child poverty stats conflict

According to UNICEF:
New Zealand's child poverty rates have come down by less than half a per cent since 2008, according to the Unicef report Children of the Recession.
By contrast, Australia reduced its child poverty rate by more than 6 per cent over the same period, and Finland and Norway, countries with similar populations, reduced theirs by more than 4 per cent and 3 per cent respectively.
Here's what the Australian media is writing about the same report:

The third-best improvement was in Australia, where the child poverty rate fell from just over 19% to 13%. In four years, Australia moved from having the 19th-lowest rank to the seventh-lowest rate of child poverty – an impressive achievement in any terms.

Here's what the Australian Council of Social Services say: